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The Year in Review: 2020

The Year in Review: 2020

The Year in Review

January 2020

The year got off to a wonderfully normal start with Members’ drinks at SAMA Bankside. We were delighted to be joined by ACA Patron Michael Foreman, who together with our President David Wood OBE gave a fitting tribute to our much-loved and much-missed Patron Terry Jones, who passed away on the 21st of January. We were also able to raise a glass to ACA Patron Baroness Floella Benjamin, made a Dame in the New Years’ Honours.

February 2020

We received the first instalment of Arts Backpack UK funding from Fife Council.

March 2020

The pandemic struck, and the world changed overnight. We started sharing a weekly round-up of creative activities for people who were home-schooling; as well as a list of emergency funding resources for our practitioner members.

April – May 2020

We started crowdfunding to support the children’s arts community. Thanks to the generosity of members, patrons and friends of ACA, we raised an amazing £4,000!

We distributed our crowdfunding efforts to twelve individuals and small organisations who were in desperate need of help. You can find out more about the Covid-19 fund recipients here: Children’s Arts Covid-19 fund: recipients

“The award has given us a lifeline. Thank you again to everyone at Action for Children’s Arts. We hope to see you again soon when we can all meet up and celebrate but, meanwhile, we will continue to push for children’s arts to be central to the recovery from this dreadful pandemic.” – Teach it through Drama

June 2020

We sponsored ACA Development Officer Mimi Doulton to join the Freelance TaskForce. Mimi worked closely with the Theatre for Young Audiences, Musicians in Theatre, and Early-Career Practitioners groups, trying to enact positive change in our industry.

We would like to say huge thank you to Peter McKintosh, Theatre Designer for his very generous donation to ACA, from the sale of his artwork during June and July. His wonderfully kind gesture will help to ensure the charity’s survival and underpin our current and future endeavours.

July 2020

ACA launched a bursary membership scheme, sponsored by kind individuals who had bought a birthday candle in our twentieth birthday year. You can meet our first five bursary members here: ACA welcomes five bursary members. If you know someone who would benefit from a year’s free membership of ACA, please get in touch!

August – September 2020

We held four Zooms with ACA Members, exploring the following topics.

  • The Future of Working in Schools
  • Embedding Diversity into your Working Practice
  • Developing your Online Outreach
  • Gender and sexuality issues in our work creating arts for and with children

Thank you to our wonderful speakers, and to the more than 70 members who took part in these sessions. You can read the notes and recommendations from these sessions on the ACA website. Click here to read the notes.

We also sadly bid farewell to another ACA patron, the inspirational Professor Sir Ken Robinson. He is deeply missed by us all.

October 2020

Our Trustee Susan Whiddington received a CBE for her work with children and families at Mousetrap Theatre Projects! Congratulations Susan.

We also shared the launch of the ASSITEJ International Manifesto, based on ACA’s Children’s Arts Manifesto. This manifesto will raise awareness of children’s needs and rights to their own arts and culture, as is set out in UN Article 31. It is part of a global initiative to raise awareness of the importance of the arts in the lives of children and to draw attention to the fact that in so many countries, arts for children are not on any political agenda.

November 2020

November was a pretty big month! We were so excited to award the 2020 JM Barrie Award to ACA Patron Anna Home OBE, and incredibly grateful to everyone at the BBC and Dock10 for their help in producing our first online awards. You can still watch the ceremony on YouTube, just click play on the video:

November also saw the long-awaited launch of our first Arts Backpack UK pilot in Fife, Scotland! We are looking forward to working with six primary school classes for the next four months, introducing them to a range of quality cultural experiences online. You can find a full history of the Arts Backpack, along with monthly updates here: The Arts Backpack UK

Our thanks to Fife Council and the Haberdashers’ Company for funding this pilot.

December 2020

In December, we were so honoured to announce Kate Robinson as a new patron of ACA. “I am absolutely delighted to be a patron of Action for Children’s Arts. The work of ACA was so dear to my Dad’s heart, it is a privilege to be able to continue it.”

Last but not least, we had a wonderful festive celebration with some of you on Zoom! Thank you to everyone who took the time to pop in and say hello.

Until next year…

PS! We couldn’t have done any of this without the support of our wonderful members. If you are in a position to do so, please click here and join today.

Arts Backpack pilots begin in Fife

Arts Backpack pilots begin in Fife

Arts Backpack pilots begin in Fife

We are delighted to announce that the Arts Backpack UK began its first pilot in six Fife primary schools at the beginning of November. We are looking forward to working with around 200 students and teachers at: Cowdenbeath Primary School, Kelty Primary School, Benarty Primary School, Hill of Beath Primary School, Cardenden Primary School and Fulford Primary School.

Over the next four months, classes will be able to select activities to go into their Backpacks from our directory of online resources. This includes activities from ACA Members Theatre Alibi and Magic Lantern; Scottish arts organisations Imaginate and Scottish Opera; and national and international institutions such as Google Arts and Culture. In addition to this, each class will have the opportunity to commission a piece of online content from one of our partners in Scotland.

Everyone at ACA is so proud to be pushing ahead with this first pilot, despite the challenges presented to us by Covid-19. Although the pandemic has limited our possibilities to work face-to-face, it has truly widened the horizons of what arts and culture are available for children to experience online. We look forward to sharing these experiences with our students in Fife over the next four months.

A plea for donations:

If you feel able to support future pilots of the Arts Backpack UK, please donate here: paypal.me/artsbackpack

A new manifesto for ASSITEJ

A new manifesto for ASSITEJ

A new manifesto for ASSITEJ

We are delighted to share with you the ASSITEJ International Manifesto, based on ACA’s Children’s Arts Manifesto. This manifesto will raise awareness of children’s needs and rights to their own arts and culture, as is set out in UN Article 31. This is part of a global initiative to raise awareness of the importance of the arts in the lives of children and to draw attention to the fact that in so many countries, arts for children are not on any political agenda.
 
Whilst they are on the UK's agenda, they are relatively low priority, and often drowned out by the clamour for adult arts. We need to raise the profile of children's arts and back the Manifesto, calling for a universal investment in children’s participation in cultural activity.
- Vicky Ireland MBE, Chair of Action for Children's Arts

Response to latest curriculum guidance

Response to latest curriculum guidance

Response to latest curriculum guidance

We were pleased to read that the government has retracted plans to encourage removing non-core subjects from the curriculum for the majority of children in September. Instead, they are now encouraging a broad curriculum that embraces sciences, humanities, the arts, physical education/sport, religious education and relationships and health education.
However, guidance is still in place that for students in exceptional circumstances, these subjects could be suspended until summer 2021 – on agreement with parents. Action for Children’s Arts (ACA) would like to emphasise that even for children who are perceived to be behind in their academic attainment, creative outlets will be key to their mental and emotional recovery from this crisis. Whilst we understand that schools are under pressure to meet the government’s academic attainment targets, we urge them to prioritise children’s well-being.
ACA Chair Vicky Ireland said,
‘I personally feel there should be more awareness, that it’s not back to business as usual. Covid-19 has been damaging and we need to heal. We need to acknowledge there is a special and urgent need to prioritise children, their well-being and mental health. What measures are being put in place to listen, help and heal?’
In addition to this, we are concerned by the continued advice against group singing and music-making, before sufficient evidence has been produced around its dangers. Choral singing has been proven to enhance children’s brain development, widen their cultural horizons, and give them a sense of belonging. After this prolonged period of isolation, we believe that fostering this sense of belonging must be maintained as a crucial part of every child’s education.
Finally, we still await guidance on working in schools for visiting creative practitioners. We hope that the government will produce this before the end of the summer term, so that the many freelancers and small companies who depend on this work can start planning for a return to business in the autumn.

ACA response: tests for four-year-olds in English and Maths

ACA response: tests for four-year-olds in English and Maths

ACA response: tests for four-year-olds in English and Maths

Action for Children's Arts (ACA) notes with concern the statement from Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary on Monday 22nd June that the much-criticised and unproven tests in English and Maths for four year olds are still to go ahead. At a time when all sectors of society - and across the political spectrum - have acknowledged the great threat to mental health and wellbeing caused by Covid-19 isolation, it is vital that our priority as a nation should be meeting the need for stability, sociability and communication. These are key factors that must be in place before young children can learn, and they should be our priorities now. Working together, socialising, creating in small and larger groups; all are vital steps back from the situation in which we now find ourselves. We call for the immediate abandonment of these tests and an urgent re-ordering of priorities to help all our children, especially the youngest, to create, communicate and learn.
Whilst we acknowledge there is now a gap in the English education timescale for Nursery and Primary-school children, we urge that the “knowledge deficit” does not lead to undue pressure upon the children, or the removal of arts and creativity in their school lives in order to “catch-up”. Cramming does not work with this age-range. They will catch up far more quickly if they have the arts and creativity in their lives to provide an escape from mental and emotional strain.
We must be extra careful of our children’s mental and physical well-being. They have never needed the time to create, imagine and play within the school environment more. 
 
Vicky Ireland MBE FRSA
Chair
Action for Children’s Arts

ACA sponsors Freelance TaskForce member

ACA sponsors Freelance TaskForce member

ACA sponsors Freelance TaskForce member

We are proud to have sponsored our Development Officer, Mimi Doulton to become a part of the Freelance TaskForce.

The TaskForce was set up by Fuel Theatre following their Open Letter to Theatre and Performance Makers, which ACA signed. The aim of the TaskForce is to give freelancers paid time to work together in June, July and August, campaigning for government support and positive change in the industry. Over 130 organisations have agreed to sponsor a TaskForce member. Each member will act independently of their sponsor organisation.

We asked Mimi how she felt about joining the TaskForce:

"I am thrilled to be joining the Freelance TaskForce at this time of change in the performing arts industries. I hope that it will galvanise the disparate voices of self-employed theatre professionals across the UK to campaign for better government support at this challenging time. I am also excited to be part of a virtual room full of brilliant minds who can envision a better and fairer future for the industry."

We look forward to following the progress of the TaskForce and will keep ACA members updated!

March Newsletter

March Newsletter

March Newsletter

We had a great time with members, Trustees, Patrons, Critical Friends and other industry professionals at our New Years' Drinks, hosted by SAMA Bankside!

The Arts Backpack UK - February Update

  • Pilots are on schedule to commence in Fife and Leicester from September 2020. We will be working with 7 schools in Fife, in partnership with Youth Music Theatre Scotland; and 4 schools in Leicester, in partnership with Spark Arts.
  • Planning is underway for a London pilot later in the 2020/21 academic year, in partnership with For Good, the charity associated with Wicked.
  • We have received over 200 responses to our children's survey, which was issued via First News in January. Our researchers Keda and Yasemin will be compiling this data to inform their research and evaluation processes.
  • We have received the first instalment of funding from Fife Council.

Chair's report

  • Congratulations to our patron Floella on becoming a Dame!
  • It was with great sadness that we heard of the death of our much loved patron, Terry Jones, an exceptional writer, and a unique creative spirit.
  • Vicky attended the Writer’s Guild GB Awards, and the Writer’s Guild GB Olwen Wymark Theatre Encouragement Awards 2020.
  • A group of TYA Theatre makers attended a meeting with representatives from Action for Children’s Arts, Theatre Education Forum, Theatre for Young Audiences England and Assitej UK with Anne Applebaum, Director of Children and Young People, Arts Council England. You can find full notes of this meeting below.
  • The Government are working hard to support Music Education and are calling for a music consultation. https://consult.education.gov.uk/curriculum-implementation-unit/music-education-call-for-evidence/ Maybe other art forms for children and young people should also strive to make their case heard by Government?

General Election 2019: Manifesto round-up

General Election 2019: Manifesto round-up

General Election 2019: Manifesto round-up

We have done a round-up of  policies on children, education and the arts. Please note that this article has been quoted verbatim from each manifesto, and parties have been ordered according to the number of seats they currently hold in the House of Commons.

The Arts:

  • A £250 million cultural capital programme to support local libraries and regional museums.
  • A Festival of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2022.
  • Business rates relief for music venues and cinemas.
  • Maintain support for creative sector and tax relief and free entry to the UK's national museums.

Education (for children aged 12 and under):

  • An 'Arts Premium' for Secondary Schools.
  • An extra £14 billion in funding for schools - that translates to at least £4,000 for each primary school pupil.
  • Raising teacher starting salaries to £30,000.
  • Expand 'alternative provision' schools for children who have been excluded.
  • More school places for children with complex Special Educational Needs.

Children:

  • Invest £500 million in new youth clubs and services.
  • Cement the Opportunity Areas Programme.
  • Review the care system to make sure that children and young adults are being provided with the support they need.
  • A £1 billion fund to help create more high-quality, affordable childcare.
  • Maintain the commitment to free school-meals.

 

The Arts:

  • £1 billion Cultural Capital Fund to transform libraries, museums and galleries across the country.
  • Make the distribution of National Lottery Funding more transparent.
  • Maintain free entry to museums.
  • Launch a Town of Culture competition.
  • Work with trade unions and employers to make creative jobs accessible to all, ensuring diversity in these industries.
  • Ensure libraries are preserved and updated for future generations.

Education (for children aged 12 and under):

  • An Arts Pupil Premium to fund arts education for every primary school child.
  • A £160 million annual boost for schools to ensure creative and arts education is embedded in secondary education.
  • Radically reform early-years education to make high quality early-years education available to every child.
  • Within 5 years, all 2-4 year olds will be entitled to 30 hours free education per week.
  • Maximum class-sizes of 30 for all primary school children.
  • Fund more non-contact time for teachers to prepare and plan.
  • Scrap KS1 and KS2 SATS and baseline assessments, refocussing assessments on supporting pupil progress.
  • Receive advise on integrating private schools into a comprehensive education system.

Children:

  • An £845 million plan for Healthy Young Minds - more than doubling the amount spent on children and adolescent mental health services.
  • Introduce a Future Generations Wellbeing Act.
  • Develop a cross-governmental National Strategy for Childhood, focusing on health, security, well-being and poverty.
  • Stop 300,000 children from being in poverty by scrapping the benefit cap and the two-child limit.

 

The Arts:

  • If Brexit happens, campaign for streamlined visa schemes for artists and performers.
  • Continue supporting tax incentives for Creative Industries.
  • Work towards more equality, inclusion and diversity across the Creative Sector.

Education (for children aged 12 and under):

  • £750 million Scottish Attainment Fund to close the attainment gap in schools.
  • Expand early-learning and childcare provision from 600 hours per year to 1,140 hours.

Children:

  • Expand childcare into the school holidays.
  • Campaigning against the 'Rape Clause'.
  • Introduce a new £10 a week Scottish Child Payment for low-income households by the end of next year.

 

The Arts:

  • Maintain free access to national museums and galleries.
  • Protect sports and arts funding via the National Lottery.
  • Examine the available funding and planning rules for live music venues and the grassroots music sector, protecting venues from further closures.
  • Support growth in the Creative Industries and create Creative Enterprise Zones.

Education (for children aged 12 and under):

  • Protect the availability of arts and creative subjects in the curriculum and act to remove barriers to pupils studying these subjects.
  • Teach the key skills required for children to flourish in the modern world: critical thinking, verbal reasoning and creativity.
  • Reverse cuts to school funding and employ an extra 20,000 teachers.
  • Scrap SATS and replace league tables with a broader set of indicators.
  • Triple the Early Years Pupil Premium to £1000.
  • Require Early-Years staff to complete a training qualification.

Children:

  • Free, high-quality childcare for every child aged 2 to 4 years, and children between 9 and 24 months where their parents or guardians are in work: 35 hours a week, 48 weeks a year.
  • Invest £1 billion a year in Children's Centres.
  • Extend free school-meals to all children in primary education, and children in secondary education whose families are on Universal Credit.

 

Education (for children aged 12 and under):

  • £16.5 million has already been spent on local schools.

Children:

  • 30 hours for 28 weeks of childcare provision for 3-4 year-olds.

 

Education (for children aged 12 and under):

  • Financial literacy and oracy to be included in the national curriculum.
  • School health workers introduced in primary and secondary schools.
  • 20-week retraining sabbatical for those in need of a mid-career skills boost.

 

The Arts:

  • Demand a devolution of broadcasting.
  • Maintain free entry to museums and develop a National Digital Library for Wales.
  • Create a new National Gallery for Contemporary Art.

Education (for children aged 12 and under):

  • £300 million extra for schools and colleges.
  • Ensure teachers can make the needs of children and young people central to what they do.
  • Develop a new curriculum, and allow sufficient time and resources for teachers to prepare to teach it.

Children:

  • Universal free childcare 40 hours a week and a new £35/week payment for every child in a low-income family.

 

The Arts:

  • Increase central government funding to councils by £10 billion a year. They can use this funding to nurture arts and culture in their areas, keeping local museums, theatres, libraries and art galleries open and thriving.
  • Reforming copyright and intellectual property rights legislation to ensure a better balance between the rights of consumers and the rights of those working in the creative economy.

Education (for children aged 12 and under):

  • Learning must be lifelong, liberating and accessible to all. Education can and should unlock creativity and enable self-expression across all ages.
  • Restore arts and music education in all state schools.
  • Increase funding by at least £4 billion per year.
  • Long-term aim to reduce class sizes to under 20.
  • Free schools from centrally imposed testing regimes, OFSTED inspections, rigid national curriculum and league tables.
  • Formal education will start at 6 years-old. Those under 6 will remain in early-years education with a focus on play-based learning.
  • Remove charitable status from private schools and charge full VAT on fees.

Children:

  • Ensure that all children receive the basic elements of a good childhood: a decent place to live, safety and security in their community, time and space to play, as well as opportunities to learn and develop inside and outside of school.
  • Prohibit the use of pesticides in the locality of homes, schools and children’s playgrounds.
  • Phase in a Universal Basic Income with supplements for families with children.

 

First donation to the ACA candle campaign

First donation to the ACA candle campaign

First donation to the ACA candle campaign

Our heartfelt thanks to Dr Chris and Hazel Abbott for being the first donors to our candle campaign!

We are asking for donations of £300 to buy a candle on our celebration cake. Alongside your donation you can nominate 10 people for a year's free ACA membership, or you can donate ten bursary memberships to ACA. Each bursary membership will be given to an emerging artist who the Trustees feel would be a valuable part of ACA, but who does not have the funds to become a member.

Click here to become a Candle donor.

Why donate?

We campaign for the right of every child aged 0-12 to access the arts, regardless of their background or personal circumstances. We are particularly passionate about ending inequality in arts education.

A recent report from the Social Mobility Commission found that children from the poorest families are 3 times less likely to be involved in extra-curricular arts activities.

Although we have been running this campaign since 1998, politicians are yet to listen and appreciate the value of instilling creativity in all our children. We need to continue working with teachers, practitioners and arts organisations to democratise arts education.

In the last 18 months our charitable activities have included:

The Arts Backpack UK: In Autumn 2018 we commissioned a Feasibility Study for an Arts Backpack project in the UK. Since publication, we have spoken to over 50 organisations across the four nations, and coordinated a first phase of pilots in Fife and Leicester. Each child will be entitled to at least five quality arts encounters a year.

Networking events: Around 500 people have attended ACA networking events.

The JM Barrie Awards: The 2018 JM Barrie Awards celebrated Stuart and Kadie Kanneh-Mason as role-models to all parents of creative children. In 2019, the JM Barrie Awards honoured Sir Philip Pullman CBE, for a lifetime's achievement in delighting children.

Listening to Children: We are working closely with children from Chickenshed Theatre to develop our research and evaluation structures. Our first piece of child-led research was conducted through schools' newspaper First News in autumn 2019.

We need as big a network as possible in order to push the message home to government that the arts are an important part of all our lives. In these turbulent times, the cultural sector needs to stand together and demand a better future for our children.

Your donation will give us a stronger voice, and enable us to keep making this demand for another twenty years to come.

Click here to become a Candle donor.